American Foulbrood (AFB)

American Foulbrood (AFB)

Analytica offers a test for American Foul Brood disease (AFB) using a modern DNA testing technique called PCR.

PCR testing is not the same as conventional microbiological plating techniques. One advantage of PCR is it is sensitive, allowing detection of sub-clinical levels of AFB in samples.  Another benefit is if the test detects AFB in a sample, then it is clear that there were AFB bacteria or spores in the sample without risk of confusion with other types of microorganisms.

The test can be used on samples such as honey, swabs, bees, brood, and even honeycomb containing honey residues.  Beekeepers and honey processors can use this PCR test as a very specific and sensitive way of detecting AFB for hive management as well as market access reasons.


We encourage beekeepers to be familiar with their obligations under the national pest management plan, and to consider how results received from PCR testing are to be used in accordance with it. There is a lot of valuable information about AFB and the pest management plan at


American Foulbrood (AFB) is a bacterial disease that can affect beehives with serious consequences.  In New Zealand it is a notifiable disease, and is governed by a national pest management plan.  

Identification of hives with AFB has traditionally been carried out in 2 ways:

  • Visual inspection of brood in hives by people who have been trained and are experienced in to recognising symptoms.
  • Sending samples of infected or suspicious brood, bees, or honey to a laboratory for analysis.  This test involves culturing for AFB on microbiological plates, with results usually reported as negative (no AFB detected on the plate) or positive (AFB bacteria grew on the plate when cultured).

At this stage it is not possible to draw a direct comparison between results arising from a PCR test, and the results you would see from the same sample using the conventional microbiological plating technique.  Nor is there data that tells us what levels of AFB bacteria or spores need to be present in samples tested by PCR for there to be clinical signs present in a hive.


Screen honey samples for evidence of AFB – the test can be used with honey samples collected from individual hives, or from batches of extracted honey, to confirm there is no evidence of AFB in the hives that the honey was collected from.  If AFB is detected, then further investigation of the hive(s) can be carried out, and movement control of hives and beekeeping equipment can be implemented to control spread of disease.

Learn more about AFB Honey Testing

Testing swabs of hive entrances for AFB – if you want to catch an AFB problem early, you can monitor your apiaries with our AFB Hive Testing service. Simply swab the hives and send the swabs to us!

Composite testing of swabs is even available to keep costs down, and still give you a good understanding of the AFB levels in your hives.

Learn more about AFB Hive testing

Read our AFB Hive testing tech note

Meeting international trading requirements – the new Overseas Market Access Requirement (OMAR) document related to honey exported from NZ to China refers to the possibility that honey imported in to China may be tested for AFB.  The PCR test will provide fast and sensitive results to processors, confirming whether there are any detectable AFB bacteria or spores in honey that may create a risk if tested in China.


Only 10-15 grams of sample is needed, as long as it is a good representation of the honey or hive it has been taken from.  Samples should be placed in sterile, screw cap sample containers, kept cool, and sent to Analytica soon after collection.

When collecting samples, take care to avoid cross-contamination between the samples.  PCR is a very sensitive testing technique, and even small amounts of cross contamination can result a ‘false positive’ result if there are bacteria or spores present in some samples.  Methylated Spirits can be used to sterilise sampling equipment to prevent spread of bacteria or spores between hives.

If you have questions about how to collect samples, please call us.


Please contact Analytica for current pricing and TATs on +64 7 974 4740 or at


Analytica offer the full range of honey tests which honey producers, processors, and marketers need.  With a fast turnaround time, a competitive price, and service that our customers rave about.  Because we are able to carry out a number of tests on your honey, you can send in one sample and let us take care of the rest. 

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